An author, editor, musician, graphic designer and fashionista, Chip Kidd is one of the most down-to-earth individuals I have ever come across. His diverse portfolio and approach to design are inspiring, I am yet to come across a better method of design than Chip’s. He never judges a book by it’s cover (as publishers would hope), he creates covers that embody the book. USA Today described him as “the closest thing to a rock star” in the graphic design world.
At the tender age of 52, Chip has had a thriving career. Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, he stayed a home-bird until he graduated from Pennsylvania State University and moved to the big apple, New York City. As many graduate do, he dreamed of becoming a big shot in the world of Graphic Design as soon as he graduated, unfortunately, reality hit hard when the only job he was offered was an assistant to an art director at Knopf; a book publisher.
Chip’s approach to design is different every time, but he always begins the same, by reading the book he is designing. He then applies the ‘magpie method’ in which he borrows and chooses things that have been done before and adapts them, most importantly, he asks himself ‘what do the stories look like?’ and develops from there. His most famous, and coincidently his biggest break, process was that for Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. He began by reading the book and then going to the Natural History Museum. On his way out he picked up a book about dinosaurs at the gift shop, he was particularly taken by one image, the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. He then made a photocopy, began tracing over it and filling in the details. He sent the final idea over to the author whom loved it. He was later approached by Universal whom asked if they could buy the rights to the image as they MAY use it for a film production and that’s where the infamous Jurassic Park illustration came from.
When it comes to influences, Chip Kidd has a variety. He has noted to be influenced by the graphic designer Alvin Lustig, art director Peter Saville and even Russian Constructivists. However, when it comes to having a style, Chip isn’t a fan. He says that ‘having a signature look is crippling’ which I can understand. I mean, if you’re designing in one way and not thinking outside the box you’ve created, as a designer you’re going to be known as very limited and your work will be limited. You only appeal to a certain, small audience whereas if your work fluctuates, you will have a lot more work compared.
As a university student, I can really empathise with Chip Kidd. He was a budding graduate who thought he had the entire world at his grasp but he was hit with the harsh reality that the world doesn’t necessarily treat you to your ideal scenario. But, nonetheless, Chip showed enthusiasm and persevered which took him from assistant to an art director to the associate art director at Knopf and one of the most recognised and appreciated book designers in the world. His story is somewhat unbelievable in the sense that it really can happen to anybody if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you just have to try and not be afraid of the word no.